Memories for the New Year

Old Holiday Songs:   Polka Band

Letter to Santa

Come Back For Christmas

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Glimpse of Music for the Animals

Life In Tacoma

Cotters Playing Violin, Bass

At the Feast of Saint Francis

EDB et al. vs. Save Tacoma Water

Two local business organizations, together with the Port of Tacoma, have joined in a lawsuit to halt the ballot efforts of Save Tacoma Water, a citizen conservation group. In addition, the plaintiffs ask that Save Tacoma Water be ordered to pay their legal expenses.

Save Tacoma Water’s signature-gathering is almost complete, and the petitions are expected to be turned in by June 15th, unless barred by the court.

The ballot initiatives would require voter approval of any new application for water rights in excess of one million gallons per day. That idea was born last year as part of the grassroots opposition to the now defeated mega-methanol plant, which by design would have consumed ten million gallons of fresh water per day.

In announcing the lawsuit, the "business leaders" cite both legal and ideological grounds. Their press release mentions as precedent a case in Spokane, in which people’s local water rights were supposedly thrown out of court. Of course, any available legal strategies will be employed, if they seem to have a bearing on the case.

However, the main emphasis in the press announcement is the notion that the proposed initiatives would "chill economic development in the county if they are allowed to go to a public vote, whether or not they passed."

Of 6,000 commercial users of Tacoma water, only two currently meet the extreme threshold of one million gallons per day. One of them is the well known paper mill, responsible in large part for the "Aroma of Tacoma" stigma of yesteryear. The other is the amusingly-named Niagara Bottling Company, which continued to buy a million gallons a day during last summer’s drought.

So where’s the economic chill? In other words, what type of business would have a problem? If anything, the presence of new polluting industries in a residential area, squandering water during a period of draught, could be a severe economic burden.

Truth is the first casualty in any war, including a propaganda war. Anti-business bias is a charge commonly invoked whenever the Chamber of Commerce (one of the plaintiffs) feels its investment schemes may have to be scrutinized.

Accordingly, it is the danger of a stifled business environment -- not the legal case -- that is given the most schrift in their media publicity. Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board, says "The fact that it’s illegal and unconstitutional is, from our perspective, almost beside the point."

Translation: The profits of the wealthy elite must be protected from public needs, so they are making up any technicality to defeat democracy.

Residents of Tacoma, Federal Way and other communities look out on the waters of Puget Sound and they see a finite life-giving resource, threatened with drought, as we learned last year. Members of the corporate establishment look out and see a chance for a vast windfall.

The most recent news is that the Tacoma City Attorney, who in March helped prepare the ballot initiative and carefully shepherded it through the legal roadmap, has suddenly decided to join the lawsuit of the political business networks. What could have caused her change of heart?

A letter from Jeff Milchen to the 4/18 New Yorker expresses it quite well: "America’s independent businesses -- especially those serving local residents -- have more in common with average citizens than with the giant corporations that hold so much sway over our courts and legislative bodies."


I had time to kill that morning, so I had myself dropped of at a coffee shop. I wanted to linger.

They were serving breakfast, so I had an egg. Afterwards, there was brisk table turnover, so I was expected to leave. In America, you must move on.

I remember well, sitting on the bench in front of the old yellow Shell station-store, sipping on the coffee I had just bought there. It was not too chilly, and the sun was out, as I watched the homeless come and go.

I was probably remembering the past then too. Maybe mornings on Englewood, where you could hear two church bells moving in and out of synch. There was no nicer sound.

Soon afterward, life moved on, leaving me running to catch up.

NPR Reporting on the Presidential Race

Feedback to Morning Edition

9/3: On the occasion of Joe Biden's speech at Dade College, Greg Allen reports on the possibility of a Biden Presidential bid. He ponders what effect a Biden entry would have on the Clinton campaign. Attendees in Miami are sampled on their feelings about whether Biden should run.

To add interest to the story, Allen mentions Dick Cheney's advice that the Democrats need to have more Presidential candidates.

How about Lincoln Chasey, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and BERNIE SANDERS?? The Democrats don't need 17 candidates.

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis of the Buffalo News.

Higher Plane Possible

I have gotten along this far, but now I think I can improve. Heretofore, my writing has been hit-or-miss, with a lot of digressions following on one another like neglected shoots of an untended lilac bush. Now, I believe, I can clarify my ideas and trim off what's extraneous.

Project of Yesterday

Yesterday I finished a little project for one of my friends. She needed to extract emails from her online email server and turn in this info for legal evidence. Linking her email account in Outlook allowed mass-printing of the emails. The Freeware Bull Zip print software rolls the mass-selected email printouts to a PDF file for convenient viewing. I did lose sleep over this, but the initial stress one feels about the beginning of a project spurs one on to accomplishment, and is balanced by the relief and satisfaction when the project is complete.

February Dream


We're starting to pack for a household move, and I run across an old broken timex wristwatch. I see that it can't be fixed, and I throw it out.

Later I have a negroni.


Toward morning, I have a dream: Our family is staying in France, and we are a group of about five adults and five children, 12 years old and younger. It is morning, and it is my turn to go out and get take-home breakfast for everybody.

Walking around on foot, I begin to realize that I am lost. I don't recognize any of the buildings, and it looks like a strange neighborhood.

After some time, I start to worry that people are going to want their breakfast..the hungry children waiting for their pastries.

I pick up my phone to call my wife. It is a weird foreign watch/phone with a circular-shaped display on a watch dial -- the pre-entered contact phone numbers are in strange rotating pie-segments. In the indistinct light, I stab at the number which looks like my wife's, but I miss. Finally, I try to enter the number from scratch: 987-8495. I flub it and fumble with the phone. Suddenly it is mangled, the glass cover is ripped off, the bent hands look like broken insect antennae.

I become more anxious as I try to figure out what to do next. I seem to remember that the charcuterie was near where we were staying. As I am walking along, I notice a stranger who looks like an American -- equally bewildered as I am. I ask her in English, "Do you know where the charcuterie is?"

"I'm not sure, but I think it's this way," she says, pointing in a direction opposite to the way we are walking.


Mother's Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1914 after the prolonged efforts of Anne Jarvis. Ms. Jarvis wanted to honor the work of her own mother, a peace activist, "who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother's Day Work Clubs," says Wikipedia.

The current Mother's Day is not about peace per se, but still carries moral force, because it celebrates the ideals and promise of motherhood and domesticity. In a thank-you note to President Wilson, Jarvis spoke of a "great Home Day of our country for sons and daughters to honor their mothers and fathers and homes in a way that will perpetuate family ties and give emphasis to true home life." Incidentally, this holiday is also a testimony to the feminist efforts of Anne Jarvis, who, though childless herself, devoted many years of activist campaigning to honor motherhood, create the holiday, and oppose the subsequent commercialistic Hallmarkisation of it.

My mother is doing well at 98, and I am grateful to be able to visit her. At the same time, I would never praise her for reaching a particular notch in time. That has the effect of disrespecting anyone who died at a younger age.

To illustrate my thinking, let me quote Barbara Ehrenreich in a recent "Fresh Air" interview: "I would never call myself a cancer survivor because I think it devalues those who do not survive. There's this whole mythology that people bravely battle their cancer and then they become survivors. Well, the ones who don't survive may be just as brave, you know, just as courageous, wonderful people. And I don't feel that I have any, you know, leg up on them."

True my father died from lung cancer at 77, and my mother was lucky not to have ever smoked. But I wouldn't say that my mother "managed her life better". To castigate a shorter or more difficult life is unkind and a failure of wisdom. What is the measure of the value of a person's life anyway? We will never know. I must note that in the last visit this Spring my mother remembered the awesome physical strength and energy my father brought to his work. I mean "awesome"; not "like, awesome, man".

In recognizing the phenomenon of motherhood, it is also important to see people realistically, facing the challenges of life. To conclude, here's another quote from another novelist I haven't read -- Barbara Kingsolver -- regarding her book Flight Behavior: "Motherhood is so sentimentalised and romanticised in our culture. It's practically against the law to say there are moments in the day when you hate your children. Everyone actually has those moments. So to create this mother, who loves her children, of course, but is just so fed up of living in a house with people who roll plastic trucks on the floor, was a writing challenge."

Life in Tacoma, Spring

Life In Tacoma

The alley behind the house is useful for family activities.

The whole family gathered around to help the older brother carry out his project.

Technical Hurdles

First I had to figure out the working of the movie editing software on the old XP that I work on. To make the full-screen texts, I chose white on black because that looked cool, like the old silent celluloids that I used to see on TV in the '50s.

The next step was getting them on line. I could have just put them on Youtube, but I decided I wanted to host them on my own website, because the emerging html [browser] code was making that easier to do. Also, I wanted to learn best practices for this, as it could come in handy for future jobs.

My wife said, "Why reinvent the wheel?", a legitimate question, But in the background, my thinking was, "Why does everything have to be posted on Youtube? With new html tools, we are beyond that. It's like back in the '50s, when all music had to be on AM radio. "

No matter that spiritually we're living in the Dark Ages.

Anyway, putting the film up on the website meant making it readable in all major browsers. Different browsers read different video formats.

But the helper website,, has a good example that I adopted. The code offers successive video formats until the browser picks one that works. Of course, I had to convert the file into three different formats, and put each one out on my website. That part was simple, since I already had conversion software.

And then there's that case of older browsers (such as IE8), that cannot handle the new code. For these, it just drops through to Youtube, so I had to upload a contingency version there for that purpose.

After that, there was still some back-and-forth. It turns out that in making my .mp4 version I chose a compression ratio that is not standard for most of the browsers. So they would pick .mp4 but it wouldn't play.

So after I redid all of this, there is still a minor problem: When the webpage loads, and waits for the user to start the movie, IE9 doesn't display a still from the movie like I expected it to. But I figured out that that's because the beginning frame of the movie is totally black: it's the opening of the title screen before it fades in. Something to keep in mind for a later time.

In spite of all this rigamarole, the "modern" code, HTML5, makes hosting your own videos a lot easier than it used to be. Just a few years ago, to do this you had to have your own extra dedicated server running.

About This Video

A few days ago, M. sent us two short clips together with an explanation about the project. I decided it would be nice if I put them out there so anybody could watch them without having to open and download email attachments.

I wanted to combine the two clips into one, and post it online. That took me a while, as I am a novice in movies,

After some fooling around, I got what I wanted. The liveliness and clarity of the original clips made it easy for me, and I did not excise anything.

Once I got everything up, there was another problem: My website hosting service,, went down. It was temporary, but it was annoying.

One angry bluehost customer on a rant blog crabbed that this was "just the last straw" and he was going to move all of his sites to because he was getting so much better service there.

The owner of is the guy who goes to Africa and shoots down aging female elephants just for fun. Putinesque. That's the site that uses sleazy strippers in its ads. It was recently featured in the Superbowl halftime circus. I can't remember any worse media experience, unless it was the weeklong corporate-funded funeral of Ronald Reagan.

I would never use I actually had to work on a website hosted there, and I moved it out of there as soon as I could: It's the worst, most disorganized web-hosting service I have ever seen.

*  *  *


A lot of work for a one-minute video, huh?

And all of this doesn't matter in the real world because only about five people ever saw the video, in the continuing Facebook scramble for attention.

Of course, these issues pale in comparison to the major problems facing the world on every front right now.

Detroit Part I

Our Trip to the "Midwest"

Brief Rehearsal for the Wedding

After playing at an evening wedding ceremony in a string trio, I had a long night ahead of me. As soon as I came back from the gig, my wife and I had dinner, and then she packed me off on the plane for my midnight flight from Tacoma, WA.

The destination was Detroit - the town where I was supposed to have grown up, and first got married. In this trip into the past, I was to be joined by my son, who would be driving out from Buffalo, NY.

Aaron, an urban specialist, had never lived in Detroit. He looked forward to my recollections, I believe, but he also had a consuming interest in the history of rust-belt cities and their peoples.

Hopping on the plane, I was still thinking about the wedding job, so sleeping that night was probably not going to happen. A three-hour layover in Chicago had me pretty much washed out by the time I deplaned at Detroit Metro and Aaron picked me up, around 10:30 AM.

But seeing both my son and the old city revived me for a spell. We drove to the Eastern Market where he had breakfast and I had a coney island, since breakfast was not on my personal timeframe yet. The Eastern Market was a large Farmer's market on Detroit's near East Side. I explained that as a boy I thought it was called the "Easter" market, partly because I associated it with holiday commerce.

We only had two days to explore the town, and Detroit proper is about three times the area of Buffalo. This is only a personal trip, not an in-depth journalism piece.

The major streets were supposed to be coming from the city center in spoke-like fashion. We drove up Grand River, the thoroughfare going up the Northwest side. Amid all the skyscraper shells and fields of razed houses and buildings, we must've passed where Olympia Stadium once stood but we didn't notice. Northwestern High School, my mother's school, was probably still there, but not the original building.

Memories rushed through me as we went past the familiar sites. I remember driving with my mother to some bus stop to wait for Dad coming from work as manager of the downtown Washington Blvd. Stouffer Restaurant - that building now vanished without a trace.

Once on the northwest side, we turned right onto Hubbell street to head north to see Cooley High School, where I graduated in '64. My first wife, Aaron's mother, also went there, although I didn't meet her until we were both beyond high school.

Built in 1928 by Donaldson and Meier in Spanish Renaissance style. Supposedly the insides have been mined pretty bare by "scrappers".

Our sneakers sunk into the deep snow as we walked aroung the building. It was boarded up, but the exterior seemed in fairly good shape. Architecturally, this was one of the nicer schools I ever attended. Very often, we walked 2 miles home.

This is the closest I will come to a high-school reunion: the building. Because I can't see myself hob-knobbing with people I was only ever peripherally acquainted with, at an advanced age, where the purpose would be to reminisce about our youth.

I suppose some of us might have lived up to our big dreams, or at least would be able to bask in some past glories of the social scene. The teachers must be all happily in their graves.

Since we were nearby, we decided to go on to the neighborhood I lived in starting in the fifth grade, near the corner of Puritan and Southfield. It's still in pretty good shape.

To Be Continued

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